How man turns plastics into toys to conserve environment

Edward Adongo operates some of the toys he makes. PHOTO/George Omondi, The Scholar Media Africa.

Plastic is a huge part of the global toy industry.

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) 2014 report titled Valuing Plastics, “The toy industry is the most plastic intensive industry in the world”.

A lot of toys that parents buy for their children are made from plastics.

From model cars to airplanes, dolls to animals or even sports equipment, toys are part of a child’s growth cycle.

This makes the toy industry one of the largest.

Unfortunately most of these toys are not recyclable hence endanger the flora and fauna.

In a bid to help manage this crisis and reduce pollution, a 23-year-old man from Western Kenya is leading a self-initiative of recycling plastics to make toys.

In the streets of a small town in Migori County, Mr Edward Adongo might be mistaken for a “big child” who likes playing with locally assembled electric toy cars.

But to him, assembling toys using locally sourced materials is a way of promoting environmental conservation and creating self-employment.

It is an art that may have a small impact on the environment but a very vital approach that assumes the bottom-up model of environmental conservation.

Experts have been championing for the model as the best approach to remedy climate change.

Surprisingly, Mr Adongo has never been in any engineering class to learn how to assemble electric toys but his mastery is thrilling.

He has specialized in making toy cars that are powered by mortars and dry cells.

The toy cars can also move on the command of locally assembled remote controls.

“I dropped out of school at Form Two because of a health condition,” Mr Adongo told this The Scholar MediaAfrica.

“What drives me in making these toys is passion and love for the environment.”

His raw materials include ordinary plastic containers used to keep household items like cooking oil.

His passion for his creations began when he was a child.

Born and raised in Kamagambo village, not far from Kisii town, Mr Adongo did not get an opportunity to play with imported plastic toys.

He would only see some of his relatives with modern toys during Christmas visits.

“I really wanted my own toys but my family could not afford to buy them. I had to think of ways of making myself happy,” he says.

In due course, his sickness propelled him to follow his passion as he used it as therapy during the days he missed school.

Each time he was at home, he wanted to be engaged in an activity and so he begun by making ordinary toy cars using plastics.

He would push them around using his hands and imitate the sound that vehicles produce using his mouth.

A visit to Nairobi in 2015 saw a turning point in his innovations.

“I went for a medical checkup in the capital city. There I saw a lot of airplanes flying overhead where we stayed. It motivated me to start making electric toys,” he says.

After traveling back to Kamagambo, Mr Adongo begun a journey that could transform the toy industry and protect the environment.

From his previous toys, all he needed was to add mechanisms that would make the cars move.

“I visited local technicians who repaired electronics and asked if I could be given used radio and television parts. They are basic components in the electric toy cars,” he says.

This move made him become more innovative and he graduated to making toy cars that have a mechanical system.

Some of the toys he makes require specialised skills to operate.

One of the toys that stands out among the collection is a tractor model that has a secret code that enables it to move.

“It has a pass code that must be put correctly for the tractor to move. It also has gears unlike all the other toys I have made. It is one of my favorites,” Mr Adongo says.

So far, he has made more than 10 cars that are powered on battery and many others that are not powered.

“A lot of parents have approached me to make toy cars for their children. Some claim the ones that are imported break down easily. Besides, it is a way of finding a second use for containers,” Mr Adongo said.

Other types of toys he has made include a crane that has a mechanical arm able to pick objects from a group.

Everyday of the week, Mr Adongo spends time displaying his innovation hoping that one day he will be sponsored to complete his education and pursue his dream of being an electrical engineer.

“I earn by displaying the toys to people. My intention is to make them learn that plastics that are polluting the environment can be turned to something useful. Some people give me money after the show,” Mr Adongo says.

Most plastic toys are not recyclable and are made of plastic mixed with other materials such as metal, which can’t be separated.

They thus pollute the earth’s ecosystems including the oceans.

Despite their harmful impacts on the environment, the toy industry is worth billions of dollars.

In the US, it accounts for nearly $110.9 billion per annum.

In the UK toy sales account for more than £3.4billion.

What if the world can reduce toy production to protect their surroundings by simply making toys from recycling the already mass waste plastics?

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